***Trigger Warning***This article contains details of Hyperemesis Gravidarum and miscarriage.
HG is a debilitating pregnancy condition that affects 1-2% of pregnant woman, which equates to roughly 3 million women every year. (The Sick Film)
I am a HG survivor; I have a recording of my experience that you can watch on the Maternity Engagement Action Instagram TV.
Experiencing HG was a really difficult time and when I talk about it, I actually feel like I am reliving it. It can be triggering to read other women’s stories but at the same time reading about their experiences helps me to understand that I was not alone.
December - feeling rough.
I didn’t know what was wrong with me at the time but all I knew was I was feeling sick and then sicker and sicker each and every day. It started with lethargy and dizziness and I went to my GP. Of course, they did a pregnancy test and it was negative so this was the furthest thing on my mind.
However, each day brought on a new symptom. I couldn’t get up in the morning, then I couldn’t get up in the afternoon - I was sleeping all day and waking up tired. At this point, I started to keep a diary of my symptoms.
January - something is really, really wrong with me.
This was the month my stomach turned against me. Every time I ate a meal, I felt bloated and uncomfortable. I stopped enjoying my meals and I slowly started to lose my appetite. The GP referred me to the hospital as she was concerned with my symptoms. Then out of the blue I was constantly nauseous and always feeling light-headed. Everything had a bad smell which made me feel bad and everything tasted vile. I still had no clue about what was happening.
It got to the point where I couldn’t stand up straight, I was doubled over all the time. I wasn’t eating properly and wasn’t drinking anything but boiling hot water. I stopped eating fruits, vegetables and salad, I couldn’t stomach any snacks or tea of any kind. Even air tasted bad and made me feel sick.
February - oh...right...I'm pregnant and I have HG!
It was in the early part of February that I worked out that I was pregnant. I was ravenously hungry one morning and needed something to anchor my stomach, so I prepared and ate some ‘gari’, an African dish of ground cassava (actually packed full of folate). Immediately, I felt better and this was when I realised, I was pregnant. Why? How come? I hear you ask. In my last pregnancy unbeknown to me I was suffering with HG and when my mum introduced me to gari in my 7th month it made me feel so much better. I ended up eating this until my baby arrived.
When I clocked what was happening, I managed to get out of bed to go and buy a test. I got home and followed the instructions to wait for 5 minutes. After about 5 seconds the tell-tale lines appeared. I was scared, worried and really anxious. I did not want to feel like this for 9 months, I really wasn’t sure I would survive it and while I am aware that “nothing is forever” and “everything passes”, who feels it knows it!
I have my faith so I relied heavily on this and also my coach (bless her), she really helped me understand that however I was feeling was nobody's business but my own. She allowed me to talk and to be myself without feeling guilty. This was so important as my emotions were all over the place and I felt bad for not wanting HG, which also meant not wanting to be pregnant. Writing about this feeling still makes me feel incredibly sad.
What did HG feel like for me?
· Nausea all day and all night.
· Tired, lethargic and listless.
· Tearful, angry, anxious and low.
· Scared of my kitchen because it smelled.
· Scared of my bathroom because even shower gel and soap had a terrible smell.
· Smelling horrific even after a shower. No perfume because it smelled like poison.
· Toothpaste tasted vile.
· Water tasted like sewage (no idea what sewage tastes like)!
· Food tasted like it had been mixed up in the gutters (again I have no idea what that would taste like).
· Ashamed for not wanting to be pregnant.
· Feeling judged by my family - that they thought that I was lazy, a drama queen and ungrateful for the gift of life (they were probably not thinking any of these things at all).
· Wanting it to all be over ASAP.
March - loss and incredible sadness.
It was in early March that I experienced a miscarriage. I don’t know how far pregnant I was as I had not had an appointment and I was not registered to any hospital – another story entirely.
I knew something was wrong as I sensed a shift in how I was feeling, the edge had come off the HG ever so slightly. It took 2 weeks to get an appointment at the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit (EPAU). The team there were kind and very supportive.
Even though my pregnancy ended in an early loss the HG didn’t go away immediately. I experienced each and every symptom in reverse for about 4 weeks.
I am a HG survivor and I know there are Black women out there who are survivors or even going through this right now. I want to tell you that you are not alone.
Contact us at Maternity Engagement Action if you have a HG story you want to share.
Help and support
If you are experiencing HG please go to your GP and ask for help and support. Take someone with you who can advocate on your behalf if you think the GP will not take you seriously.
If you are vomiting, constantly feeling nauseous, dehydrated, losing weight and feeling dizzy contact your midwife, your doctor, or contact the hospital as soon as possible.
Links for support and information.